Mathrubhumi instilling fear

BY Sudeep KS| IN Regional Media | 05/12/2010
Following a play and a documentary on the plight of the post-LTTE Tamils, Mathrubhumi front-paged a sedition story implicating the organisers.
SUDEEP KS questions the motives behind this fear mongering

The headline on a front page item in Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi’s Thiruvananthapuram edition (November 30) reads: `Propaganda for Tamil Nationality: Investigations Begin in Capital’.

The report says, ``The police has started investigation about a programme that took place in the capital city (Thiruvananthapuram) that depicted the hardships Tamils had to face in Sri Lanka and emphasised the relevance of Tamil nationality. In the backdrop of information that the LTTE is reinventing itself on the Kerala shores, the police and intelligence agencies are looking at this campaign seriously." It added that the intelligence agencies were regarding this as a secret meeting of the LTTE in the capital.

The report was based on a programme conducted by `Pedestrian Pictures’ on Sunday November 28, titled "79 degrees, 6 hours". The programme which had been publicized in newspapers included screening of a documentary ("Mullaitheevu Saga") directed by Sri Lankan Tamil director Someetharan and a play ("Land of Ashes") performed by a Pondicherry group dealing with the sentiments of war victims. On being asked why the film did not have the LTTE in it, the director is reported to have said that they do not epitomize the Tamils’ struggles.
The report is bound to be misconstrued and create a fear psychosis among people who did not know of Sunday’s performance. They are bound to think in terms of `Tamil Tigers’ in addition to the `Islamic and Dalit’ terrorists that are already on their minds. A couple of days back the same newspaper carried a report that Tehelka journalist Shahina was suspected to be a terrorist and Karnataka police had filed two cases against her for intimidating witnesses in the Bangalore bomb blast case.
We need to remember that we are not living under emergency and that this is not Sri Lanka where voicing of opinion against the war on the LTTE could get one into jail. On contacting Mathrubhumi’s news editor I was told, "When police give such news, we cannot ignore it. We have tried to give a very diluted version." If a diluted front page report looks like this one wonders what the original is like. Apart from that, since no other newspaper carried the report, Mathrubhumi seems to be their favourite "planting" place.
The news editor’s defence was, "We have mentioned this is what police said."  And yet there were sentences in the report like, "The programme spreading propaganda of Tamil nationality lasted till 9 in the night," clearly indicating the newspaper’s stance.
The newspaper did have quotes from the organizers to balance the story but its display and prominence to police claims will make the reader think in terms of terrorism. However when reporting on the Shahina case they did not bother to get the journalists’ version and a ``secret meeting of PFI’’ that they reported on recently turned out to be a book release function.
What is ironical is that a notice announcing "79 degrees, 6 hours", which was reported for its seditious content, was carried in the newspaper on the previous day.
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